Inception: One wild ride

Christopher Nolan purportedly spent ten years perfecting his screenplay for Inception, and it shows.

The writer/director behind the new hit movie has filled it with so many layers of complexities that it resembles the convoluted dream worlds the characters spend their time creating.

The plot revolves around the movie’s main character, Cobb, played expertly by Leonardo DiCaprio. The renegade hero is a master at extraction, the art of pervading victims’ dreams to remove their most valuable or debilitating secrets.

Extraction is a delicate and often dangerous process. Cobb and his team must first envision and create dream worlds that relate to their victims and the secrets they keep, a sort of architectural feat that requires many different layers and pitfalls to prevent their target from realizing they are infiltrating his psyche.

The team then has to find a way to connect the victim into the world they have created, which they do by means of specially composed music and potent sleeping pills, and then put themselves into the dream.

The last step is to remove and deliver the information to their employers, who then use it to their advantage.

Sound complicated? The plot becomes even more involved. DiCaprio plays a powerful man, one who realizes the complexities of constructing dreams that seem realistic to the target and understands the many different emotions that rule humans and govern the outcome of the extraction process.

Two things make extraction even more difficult. One is that, according to the rules of dreaming that Nolan sets down, the target and the people that populate their dream, their “projections,” can quickly realize when outsiders have invaded the world. When they do, it becomes nasty.

The second issue in the process stems from Cobb himself. The man has his own inner demons, specifically his late wife Mal (Marion Cotillard), which he is unable to contain. Cobb and Mal loved each other with an almost idealistic intensity, partners both in life and the field of dream manipulation.

After a series of tragic occurrences led to Mal’s death, Cobb lost himself in memories, unable to separate his own past from his work. Mal, who Cotillard plays eerily and beautifully, and Cobb’s other memories are often projected into his target’s dreams, with disastrous results.

In order to fully understand the various rules and guidelines of extraction, it is necessary to see the film. The overarching storyline of the movie is relatively easy to explain.

Cobb is hired by a powerful energy executive (Saito, played by Ken Watanabe) not to steal an idea or secret, but to plant one. Saito hopes to encourage the son of a rival energy corporation’s CEO to dismantle his father’s empire, preventing the company from achieving a world-wide monopoly on power. In return, he promises to help Cobb return to his family in the U.S, where he has been accused of killing his wife.

Despite the difficulty and danger of the process (called inception), Cobb agrees, and gathers together a talented team, including Arthur, his extraction associate (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a roguish forger and master of deception named Eames (Tom Hardy), Yusef, a brilliant chemist (Dileep Rao) and a young and ingenious architecture student named Ariadne (played by Ellen Page).

The film progresses at a breakneck pace, and includes some really wonderful examples of artistic allusion. It is no wonder that Ariadne, the architect responsible for constructing the complex, maze-like dream necessary for inception, is named after the mythical Greek woman who helped Theseus navigate through the labyrinth containing the devious Minotaur.

The most pleasurable aspect of Inception, however, is that it is a hard-to-find novelty amongst the bountiful products of Hollywood: a movie that requires the viewer to think while watching it. The main point that Nolan tries to convey in his work is that it is difficult to separate reality from fantasy, what with the distinct and totally unique viewpoints that cloud humans’ perception of the world they populate.

Just as the characters in the film use their own personal experience to navigate and influence the dream they have created, trying to successfully implant an idea, the movie’s various layers call on the audience to draw from what they have seen and interpret and shape their own view of its ultimate meaning.

Inception is not a film for the lazy movie-goer; following the plot line requires some thought, and the audience leaves the theater without a full understanding of the events which just took place.

It deserves attendance, however, not just because of the quality of the acting or the bewitching special effects, but because Nolan has achieved a work that will cause viewers to reflect on the nature of reality and the true meaning of the film long after it drops from the box office queue.

Overall Grade: A